Spring tines vs. Flails

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by walker-talker, Jan 17, 2002.

  1. walker-talker

    walker-talker LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 4,771

    Heres my situation. I currently own a Yazoo/Kees verticutter. For $300 I can buy a dethatching attatchment that consist of 28 spring tines. Or, for $1000 I can buy a Bluebird/Husqvarna dethatcher which consist of 52 flail blades. I have rented this model before and the flail blades work well. So here are my questions.

    1) Would you spring for the extra $700 and buy a whole other unit? Or would you just go with the $300 attatchment and spend the 10-15 minutes each time you need to change out the attatchment?

    2) Does anyone know how the 28 spring tines would compare to the 52 flail blades?

    I know there are factors to consider for each individual cases, like how often are you going to perform the services. I can tell you one thing, I will drop $1000 on purchasing another unit before I spend another $45 on renting a unit.

    What would you do?

  2. kutnkru

    kutnkru LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,662

    My advice would be to purchase a replacement reel that consists of stationary bldes that will slice thru the turf. Many refer to them as a slicing reel and the machines as a Power Rake.

    IMHO tines are the least productive and Flails Reels do just that - Beat Your Turf to Death.
  3. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,028

  4. walker-talker

    walker-talker LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 4,771

    I can honestly say that I have never recommended a dethatch job. Once in the spring and once in the fall I place an ad in the paper offering dethatching. I get a call, estimate the job and then usually do it. By doing it, I mean run a power rake over the turf. I then mow (to suck up the thatch, or debri) with my 21" catch or my Walker.

    so are you suggesting to just stick with my verticutter (20 stationary slicing blades). I have tried to use it and it just doesnt seem to bring much of anything up. You say "power rake" is this the same as "lawn comber" or "dethatcher". I have heard one machine being called all three of these. I read a post the other day from grndskeeper. it said that most dethatch jobs is just a way of taking money out of a person pocket. I guess I am a little confused.

    Mow Ed,
    You stated in another post that 99% of your lawns do not have a thatch problem. Then you stated that you run over the lawn a few times with the spring tine attatchment for the Walker (which I am soon to purchase) and make the lawn "fluffy" and the customer is happy. I guess the reason (as I stated above) I am confused is that I am not sure what service we are selling when we do this. Is this just a lawn clean up, purely cosmetic? Or are there benifactors to this? My guess would be that the debri you are cleaning up (leaves and other undecomposed matter) would promote new turf growth. Another question, when you DO dethatch a lawn, what device do you use? Can either of you recommend any good books on the subject? I am planning of taking 2 semesters of hortculture this fall, but could use a good book NOW.

  5. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,028

    Much of it is cosmetic until there is a known thatch problem then the Professional end of the job should come out. You must try and figure out why that lawn has a thatch problem if possible. It isn't completely understood why thatch forms. But some possibilities that are known to support thatch are, Too much nitrogen, debris, overfertilization, bad mowing practices.

    Some thatch is essential and beneficial to lawn health, once again I defer to Jim (GrndKprs) as he has the most interesting and informative definition of thatch I have come across.

    Schools of thought are different for thatch control and my practice varies by the lawn that is involved. If compaction is a problem (which it often is in the heavy clay soils I deal with) then I core aerate first. I also consider a Bluebird vertical mower to beat the thatch up and then vacuum it with the Walker.

    Most of my lawns are cosmetic overall but there is a service that is being done. In using the spring tine rake on the Walker I loosen the compacted grass as well as sticks and debris that has accumulated over the winter. The Walker does a great job at vacuuming it all up at 1 1/2 inches. This works very well for the grass varieties that I deal with. There are many other procedures that people use and some may disagree with me but it works for me, your results may be quite different. This tends to be a great moneymaker for me in this area of the country and I know it isn't the same everywhere. Think Spring!
  6. 1grnlwn

    1grnlwn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,261

    I would like to add over/ light freq. watering to Mow Ed's list of causes. I have one yard with thatch problem. It was bad when we first took over. We aerated 2000 and doubled in 2001 fall. Plus we use slow release and mow proper height 3 1/4". Property has sprinklers about 1/2" a week. Looked pretty good this year.

    Homeowners don't know squat about thatch. But it appears to be cheaper than aeration and boy isn't that impressive all that (dead grass) laying on top, along with the previous live grass laying on top. I'm sure they are being educated by the same people that sell $800 mulching mowers. I was aerating a client in the fall and two neighbors were going to town with their rental thatcher. Of course you know whats next, they motion me over to ask if they are going deep enough. I said it didn't appear to have a thatch problem and did they plan on doing any seeding after they tore up the turf. I explained that the knives did not discriminate thatch from live plants and suggested the purchase some cheap grass seed (what else would they buy) to fill in the blanks. They thanked me and I went back to work. They knew their laws looked bad and dethatching is something they had heared of, so it must be good right?
  7. walker-talker

    walker-talker LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 4,771

    Many times I do a dethatch job is because someone had told the customer they needed it, when in fact, they had very little thatch at all. I just do what they ask for and charge for the service. I had one situation that a lady thought after dethatching, her lawn would look marvelous. Her lawn was nothing but weeds. I could not take her money.

  8. GroundKprs

    GroundKprs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,969

    There are spring tines mounted on reels to mount on verticutting type machines. These work similar to the flail reels, but in my opinion do not do as good a job. Also there are many dedicated flail reel machines. There is also the JRCO type of a bed of spring tines, made to be mounted on the front or back of riding mowers or walk behinds. These tools are not dethatchers, but are simply high production rakes. They all do nothing about real thatch, but can effectively remove debris from lawn surface.

    But the real question is: do you need to remove all this debris? Nature quickly breaks down dead vegetative matter on soil surface, so often the "power-raking" or "dethatching" done by many operators in the springtime is just a make-work function, absolutely unnecessary for the overall health and appearance of the turf. In my experience, this spring raking increases weed pressures by opening up more soil surface for successful weed germination. Of course, there may be many cases where this raking can help lawns, but that use must be based on your real knowledge of turf growth. As one of the more experienced early members of this forum stated: "The purpose of 'dethatching' a lawn is to get the customer to part with their money."

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